REUTERS | Kim Hong-Ji

Is your job to warn or to prevent?

Spam, scam and getting in a jam…

I recently received an email offering me what looked like a tasty piece of work, but a longer look at the email made me realise that it was a scam.

I mentioned this to one of my colleagues who referred me to a website called The website is focused on legal practice in Ontario, but it is well worth a read, particularly one of the posts which discusses turning away work.

Ancient hunters

Most private practice lawyers are under pressure to bring in new work. One of my former colleagues used to regard getting a new instruction as being like an ancient hunter, proudly returning to the village with a freshly killed stag over his shoulder.

Of course, we all know that the best source of work is repeat business from existing clients, but hunting has always been regarded as more glamorous than farming.


A slightly different version of this concept applies to those who work in commercial organisations. Often there is no choice about what to get involved with, but there are often more than a few “poisoned chalices”, which should be avoided if possible. If they can’t be avoided, my recommendation is to recall what Margaret Thatcher famously said: “advisers advise but ministers decide”.

If you are an adviser, your job is to give the right advice. Somebody else makes the decision and they have to balance your input with other considerations. The tricky bit (especially in a large organisation with a relatively “flat” management structure) is working out whether you are (or are perceived to be) an adviser or a minister. Is your job to warn or to prevent?

Situational awareness

The key, as ever, and whether you are in private practice or in-house, is situational awareness and knowing who your “client” is: see my previous blog post on this topic. We are all tempted (or pressured) to make decisions, give advice and recommendations based on imperfect information. Sometimes it takes quite a bit of courage to say that you need time to investigate further.

Keep your guard up

By coincidence, I recently took an online course in how to spot unsafe emails, everything from phishing to dodgy attachments with a section on scams as well. They seem to be on the increase at the moment (again). Before taking the course, I considered myself to be quite “savvy” but I really learned a lot from the course and would recommend everyone to refresh or update their knowledge and skills in this area.

One thought on “Is your job to warn or to prevent?

  1. It is good to be reminded of this from time to time to ensure our critical skills are turned on for these situations.
    I would like to know about your course on spotting spam Edward

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